Middas, 5th of First Seed, 4th Era 199 – East of Bruma, at the foot of the Jerell Mountains, Cyrodil.
It was approaching midnight when a group of Imperial soldiers came upon a small camp under the cover of a cliff overhang a few miles east of Bruma. The fires still burned bright inside of the small ring of tents – five fur and leather tents, a cooking spit, a couple of crates, a barrel or two and a few sacks were scattered about.
Four of the five tents were occupied, a total of 6 people. Five were sleeping, the sixth sat on a crate holding a bottle of what looked like mead, fighting sleep. He was losing the battle, as he nodded his head several times as the group approached.
The small group of soldiers gathered together and looked toward the Nord leader. His eyes were fixed on the camp. After a few moments, the Nord turned to the group and gave them hand gesture orders. The group was only three strong – nothing more than a scouting party – but they were good at their jobs. No one in the camp suspected that just outside of the light of the fires there were three people, moving to better positions.
As they each reached their positions, they nodded to their leader. He gave the camp one final look, then he gave Mibem, a young dark eyed Bosmer, a wave of his hand. She nocked an arrow coated with a thick semi-transparent green paste and with one smooth deliberate motion let the arrow fly. Without a sound, it slipped into the semi-awake guard’s right calf. The sting of the arrow entering his leg brought the bandit out of his light, mead-induced slumber just long enough to realize he’d been shot. He reached for the arrow, but before his hand could touch it, he fell off of the crate and lay in a lumped position a few feet from the fire with the cooking spit. A slow, low snore could be heard a few seconds later, telling everyone he still lived.
The Nord waved his hand a second time, this time to Jo’Rakha, a grey and black, tiger-striped Khajiit. Rakha moved toward one of the tents. His movements were so silent not even the wildlife inhabiting the small stand of trees outside of the camp heard him. He entered the tent and drew twin daggers, they were coated with the same paste as the elf’s arrow. One smooth motion later and two bandits lay sleeping in their tent with small cuts on their naked shoulders. Rakha continued his stealthy movement into the tent closest to where the now sleeping guard lay. He covered the face of the tent’s occupant with a linen cloth. While the cloth looked completely harmless, it was coated with some herb mixture that Rakha would tell no one about. After a moment of struggling, the bandit stopped moving. Once Rakha removed his hand, the bandit started to snore.
Mibem had readied another arrow and nodded her head in the direction of the camp. The squad’s leader saw this and moved into the light of the fires. He was big, even semi-crouched he was a massive figure. He wore heavy Imperial armor but no helmet. Instead he wore a hood, like those worn by mages. Under the hood a battered circlet of silver and onyx held his light-brown hair out of his eyes.
His movements were quiet and cunning. He was no assassin, but he could move quietly when needed. In his right hand was an Imperial sword; his left carried a large round shield. He moved toward the largest tent and placed himself in front of its partially opened front. He nodded his head and Rakha took care of the remaining bandit. When the Imperial leader saw Rakha exit the tent across the camp, he slid his blade inside the partially opened tent and moved the flap to the right.
Occupying this tent was a hulk of a Nord – easily 3 inches taller than the leader. This bandit was lying face up with his arms spread wide to each side – almost like a bird in flight. Beside him lay a bottle of moon sugar and three empty mead bottles.
“Passed out.” Thought the Imperial soldier. “Not even gonna be a challenge.”
With a chuckle he rotated his sword and smacked the sleeping Nord on the head with the flat side of the blade. The blade returned a beautiful high-pitched ringing to let its wielder know that he had struck something hard. One of the bandit’s arms began to move, the leader Nord prepared himself.
The bandit’s eyes started to flutter and the moment he focused on the leader standing over him, he raised his huge legs and kicked the leader in the gut causing him to fly out of the tent and land nearly the full width of the camp away. With a large thud and grunt, the leader landed on his back near one of the smaller fires.
He shook his head and said, “Well. Wasn’t expecting that!” and jumped up to face the remaining bandit who by this time had stood up and was exiting the tent.
The bandit was not aware of the two other soldiers or his fallen comrades. In fact it took him several seconds to realize that the noise of the leader Nord’s landing hadn’t woke his comrades. He looked around the camp and noticed no one moving. Then his eyes settled on the lumped-up Nord that was supposed to be on guard. A quick glance and he noticed the arrow protruding from the younger Nord’s leg. What he didn’t see was this Nord was breathing, nor did he notice that the Nord also snored. He just saw the arrow protruding from his brother’s leg and assumed he was lying beside the crate because he was dead. He went into a fit of rage “Ston! My brother! You bastard, you killed my brother.”
Mibem and Rakha looked at each other and quietly said “Uh-Oh” to each other and then sniggered slightly. Then they settled in to watch the fight.
Their leader was ready, his shield raised; sword blade glittering in the light of the flame. The bandit had a war-axe in his left hand; a mace in the right. Wearing only his breaches he was running like a mad bull toward the leader. When he was within arm’s reach of the leader, the bandit raised the axe and started swinging the mace from the side. Just before the axe connected with the leader’s shield, an arrow from the darkness came in and struck the bandit in the left calf causing him to fall and skid, chin first, to a halt at the leader’s feet. When he rolled over to look at the leader, a huge fist wrapped around a sword hilt came down and knocked him out.
The leader relaxed, looked in the direction of the arrow and yelled “Damnit Cidius! It was just getting good!”
“We don’t have time to play Bastian. Besides, he was no match for you.” Cidius Aurrus barked as he made his way into the light, and warmth, of the fire.
“But where’s the fun of tracking down dangerous criminals if you can’t have a decent brawl every once in a while?” Bastian teased. He would have liked to have had one short brawl with the brute. “Tie him up. Make sure his leg isn’t bleeding and he’s safe to travel. Don’t want him dying before we get back.” He stored his blade and shield on his back. “I’m going to look through what they stole. Maybe it’ll lead us to their boss.”
“Or it’ll tell us that he has no boss and we can all go back to the legion with some good news.” Cidius chirped.
“Yeah, because we’ve been full of good news these last few months.” Added Mibem.
“This one has a sour attitude.” Rakha bellowed pointing a claw in Mibem’s direction. “She is always collecting blisters on her feet from walking on warm sand instead of admiring the view from the beach.”
“Ok you two, just get the others ready for travel and then start looking for anything that’ll point us to our next target.” Bastian snapped. Everyone began their task.
Before long the bandit leader was awake and struggling to break free of his bonds. Bastian moved to him, picked him up and placed him on a crate and began his interrogation by asking “Who’s your boss?”
To which the bandit replied, “Kiss my arse.”
“One more time…Who’s your boss?” Bastian was not a very patient man and this Nord was already plucking on his strings.
“I told you, KISS MY ARSE!” the burly Nord said and spat on Bastian’s armor. Without a thought, Bastian landed a hard right cross on the Nord’s jaw. Pulling out a rag, wiping off the spittle, he turned and walked away, giving a glance to Cidius. Without a word Cidius walked up to the bandit and began to weave a spell. A dull purple wave of light appeared between his fingers.
Turning back to the bandit, Bastian began in a calm voice, “I’m only going to ask you one more time and then I’m going to let my friend here start sending pieces of you to Oblivion.” Bastian nodded his head to Cidius who had a very delightfully evil look on his face. “I think I’ll let him start right HERE.” He growled with a firm voice, heavily enunciating the HERE and tapped on the create with a broken arrow shaft between the Nord’s legs.
The bandit saw the delightful look on Cidius’ face and the light glow brighter and brighter. He thought for a second and then told Bastian that he didn’t know who his boss was. “I get my orders from a drop – a small box in an alley in Bruma. A few days after the job is done, I get a piece of paper from the box that I take to a merchant who gives me the money.” With a pitiful look on his face he turned to look Cidius in the face and finished. “That’s all I know. Everything, I swear. The money was good and the jobs were easy, I couldn’t pass it up.”
“Tell me where this box is and the name of the merchant that pays you. Maybe I’ll have Cid here leave a little piece.” Grumbled Bastian with a stern look on his face.
“The box is in the alley between the fishery and hunting supply store on the west side of Bruma. It’s covered in junk, but isn’t hard to find. I don’t know the merchant’s name, but he runs the tapestry shop in the market square.” the bandit squeaked, never once taking his eyes of the magical light growing brighter every second in front of him.
“Any certain phrase the Merchant responds to, or do we just need the paper?”
“No the paper is all you need. I know there’s more than one group of us, the merchant said we were faster than any other one the last time we got paid.”
“Where is this paper now?”
“In my tent, under my bed roll.”
Bastian nodded to Rakha who immediately went looking for it.
Sebastian continued with the bandit “And this is your entire group – just you six?”
Rakha returned waving a small piece of parchment.
“Yeah. This is all of us.”
“I don’t believe him.” Said Cidius with a gruff tone. “I say we take a piece just to be sure.” Cidius began to wave his arms and the purple light grew brighter and started to crackle.
“NO! Please! NO! I swear I don’t know any more!!! Don’t let him do it!” The bandit whimpered, never once taking his eyes off of the crackling ball of light.
“Maybe just the tip – no more though, you hear me, Cid?” whipped Bastian.
Having been given the go ahead, Cidius twitched his fingers and let the now brightly glowing ball of light leave his hand. It traveled quickly toward the bandit’s legs. As the ball of light landed on the crate, the bandit let out a scream that could be heard for miles. “NOOO!”
The birds that had been perched in the trees around them suddenly jumped into the air and flew in a hundred different directions.
The ball of light landed and stuck to the front of the crate the bandit was sitting on. It emitted a very bright light and nothing more.
After watching the bandit’s reaction, Cidius chimed in, back in his normal voice, “I think he’s telling the truth.” pointing to the stream of yellowish liquid running down the front of the crate.
The Imperial soldiers all started to laugh. Afterwards, they gathered their prisoners, lashed them to a single length of rope and marched them through the night back toward Bruma.
Just before sunrise they entered an Imperial camp hidden in a small glen to the north of Cheydinhal, not too far from Lake Arrius where the camp drew it water. It was close enough that they could react to any disturbance, but far enough away that he city’s residents were unaware of their presence.
There they delivered the bandits and reported their findings to Legate Crassi Mantedus. Bastian paced the ground inside of the Legate’s huge tent as he delivered his report.
“This group was six strong. All accounted for. The only problem is that there is more than just this group. They may be operating in every corner of Cyrodiil for all we know. But,” Bastian stopped and turned to look the Legate in the face, “they seem to all get paid by the same merchant in Bruma. He runs the tapestry shop in the market square. He may be the leader or, if not, possibly knows who the leader is. He has to get his and the bandit’s money from somewhere.”
“Good work Rigel.” Legate Mantedus used his soldier’s proper first name. “You and your team have done well. I’ll dispatch an Infiltrator to learn more from this merchant. Tapestry shop you say?”
“Yes ser.” Bastian looked at the Legate with a puzzled face. “But ser, if I may. I was hoping that my team would finish this up. We’re close and I’d like to take all of the other groups down as well.”
“I know. But this work requires…more finesse and I can better utilize your team for other things at the moment. Get cleaned up, get some rest and a proper meal, then come see me about your next assignment.”
“Yes ser.” Bastian knew he had been dismissed.
Upon leaving the Legate’s tent he strode across the camp where his team had gathered. They were preparing to leave and finish the job. Bastian was clearly upset when he arrived.
“Take a breather. We’re not going anywhere, at least not for a while.’ Bastian looked back to the Legate’s tent and shook his head, then continued, “The Legate seems to think we don’t possess enough finesse to deal with the merchant. He’s sending in an Infiltrator.”
“You’re joking, right.” Cid squawked, thinking his friend and commander was actually joking with them.
“Nope. His exact words were for us to get cleaned up, get some rest and have a proper meal before reporting to him for our next assignment.” The disappointment and frustration was plain to see on Bastian’s face.
“And why shouldn’t we?” asked Mibem. “We have been tracking those sods for nearly a month. Why shouldn’t we take some time to relax?”
“Because we should finish what we start.” answered Rakha.
“You’re right. But we’re soldiers and we follow orders.” sighed Bastian. “So, get some rest. Have some fun. We’ll find out what we have in store for us tomorrow I guess.” With that, Bastian left the little group and walked toward the other side of the camp.
“Looks like he’s off to the forge again.” started Mibem.
“Yep. He’ll be fine though. Let’s get some food.” finished Cid.
The three headed toward the smell of food.